West Bromwich Albion 3-2 Birmingham City Player Ratings: Gayle thriving centrally

West Brom celebrate – www.wba.co.uk (Credit: Adam Fradgley)

Jake Livermore’s thunderous strike kept West Brom’s automatic promotion hopes alive on Friday night, as they recorded a 3-2 win over Birmingham. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

West Bromwich Albion

Sam Johnstone – the Manchester United academy graduate had begun his time under Jimmy Shan with back-to-back clean sheets but that run was halted within seven minutes here, when he could have done little about Gary Gardner’s header. Perhaps more culpable for Blues’ second goal though and his distribution though leaves some room for improvement. 5

Mason Holgate – so often providing ball-playing qualities down Albion’s right side, Holgate was surprisingly quiet here. Part of the problem was that he did not have runners in front of him, which is essential for the Everton loanee, who does not have the pace to attack the wide areas individualistically. 5
Ahmed Hegazi – the centre-back, returning to the squad after a training trip with Egypt, put in a very shaky performance. His ability on the ball remains limited and so at times he gave the ball away in an undesirable area. These faults would be more forgivable were he excellent at the basics of defending his penalty area, but Hegazi also lost numerous headers. Temporarily went off with a knock while Birmingham scored their second goal. 4
Craig Dawson – the ex-Rochdale defender has had to win over some fans this season, with question marks over how he handled the prospective move to Burnley that fell through. Dawson has grown as the season has gone on though and, having played at right-back previously, his ball-playing qualities looked slightly more advanced than that of his centre-back partner. 6
Conor Townsend – the left-back looked likely to play second-fiddle to Kieran Gibbs for the rest of the campaign but, when the former Arsenal stalwart got injured, Townsend has had – and taken – his opportunity. This was another well-rounded display from the former Scunthorpe man, who might have had his struggles against Mahoney early on, but more than made up for that in the second half when he made a number of searching runs, one of which leading to the penalty for Rodriguez’s equalizer. 7

Jake Livermore – the former Hull man’s lack of mobility was at times problematic; Birmingham’s pressing in the first half forced him into safe passes and, upon the turnover of possession, he found it difficult to recover a defensive position. Then again, he came up trumps on 74 minutes with a belter from outside the box that he thumped past Camp. 6
Chris Brunt – the Northern Irishman’s first half started badly, when after being warned for shirt-pulling from a corner, he then became too tame and lost sight of Gardner in the lead-up to the goal. His second half though started brilliantly, when the Albion stalwart’s delivery allowed Gayle to nod home. Even when Brunt is not at his most influential in general play – Brunt blazed over from close-range midway through the second period – his set piece quality is always a real weapon. 7
James Morrison – the Albion stalwart has some technical qualities, but they did not show here; made the occasional run in behind to try to stretch play but it was clear that job, though forced upon him due to the make-up of the midfield, did not come naturally. Came off at half-time. 5

Kyle Edwards – the wide forward took confidence from the wonderful individual goal he scored at Brentford just before the international break and here, he was Albion’s brightest first half spark. He was the one player trying to get moves started by running with the ball, initiating combination play and – on one occasion – tracking back from left-wing to right-back to do a covering job one of the midfielders should have been doing. Ironically though, he was arguably less noticeable in the second period, when West Brom were stronger collectively. 6
Dwight Gayle – the poacher has been shifted into a more natural, central role by Jimmy Shan and there were yet more positive signs for him here. The ex-Newcastle man showed flashes of positive movement in the first half, then cleverly positioned himself to delicately nod home Brunt’s delivery early in the second half, when he looked bright with plenty of searching runs in behind. 8
Jay Rodriguez – the former Burnley front-man has generally been deployed on the left by Shan but here, he showed a willingness to try to get close to Gayle and spark some link-up play. That only looked like coming together sporadically in the first half, but Rodriguez was at least cool from the spot to score the second equalizer after the break. Not for the first time this season, Rodriguez has scored in a game without looking hugely impressive in general play. 6

Hal Robson-Kanu (on 45) – the Welshman had a huge impact on the balance of play; it meant that rather than having three slow midfielders unnecessarily, Albion only had two with Robson-Kanu showing that willingness to run in behind and stretch Birmingham’s defensive line. 8
Jacob Murphy (on 72) – the winger, replacing Edwards, filled in on the right of the attack and gave the team a little bit of extra impetus, without having a major hand in the key attacking moves. 6
Kyle Bartley (90+5) – brought on to help defend the final ball or two into the box, which the team did successfully. 6

Birmingham City

Lee Camp – a suspect performance from the former Rotherham stopper. Unable to stop Gayle’s header, despite it following the free-kick’s trajectory and not being the most powerful effort. Although it would be harsh to blame Camp for letting in the penalty, or Livermore’s strike, there are aspects of his body language when he attempts to save those shots which do not necessarily fill supporters with confidence. 4

Maxime Colin – Wes Harding had suffered a dip in form that was to be expected for somebody who had only made their senior debut the season before, so it was important that Colin returned to contention to offer a more seasoned alternative. He produced an excellent performance here, tidying up nicely at the back at times and showing class in possession. 7
Harlee Dean – the former Brentford defender always backs himself to win a loose ball and while that is an admirable mentality in some ways, we saw one or two occasions here on which that mentality led to gaps in behind; he was booked for a cynical foul late in the first half, when he responded to an attacking out wide by charging out of position to deal with something Morrison already had on hand. Then again, he was not directly at fault for any of the goals and was gallant in his attempt to block Livermore’s effort, a job that should not have been his. 5
Michael Morrison – the Blues stalwart was commanding in the first half, when he coped well with operating in a high line and took charge of one or two awkward defensive scenarios; coped with diagonal balls from deep with immaculate ease, too. Once Robson-Kanu came on though, he was faced with more pace and had to turn his back more often, meaning he did not quite have that same sense of defensive control. Can never be faulted for effort but may be better-suited to more of a bit-part role next season, if Monk can add a centre-back. 4
Kristian Pedersen – the Danish left-back provided high energy and strong challenges, even if he did not quite have the licence to drive forward as much as he normally likes to. Conceded the free-kick in the lead-up to West Brom’s equalizer though and was booked in the second half. 5

Gary Gardner – the experienced midfielder kept his discipline well and put in some good challenges; although his passes were not especially exciting, they retained possession and allowed Blues to build attacks. Booked for a strong challenge midway through the second period but a largely steady display. 6
David Davis – without Maikel Kieftenbeld, who missed out with a minor injury, Blues needed an energetic, hard-tackling midfielder and, although in theory that is Davis’ game to a tee, it did not quite work out like that. The former Wolves midfielder has only recently returned from injury and thus was not as sharp as he can be; he was responsible for two of Albion’s goals, as well, letting Gayle get away from him for the equalizer and then failing to close down Livermore for the winner. 4

Connor Mahoney – the Bournemouth loanee was outstanding in the first half, when he showed skill and neat feet in tight areas to cause problems for Townsend; he also produced pin-point set pieces that led to goals for Gardner and Jutkiewicz. Unfortunately for Mahoney, his impressive evening was marred slightly by him  conceding the penalty from which Rodriguez equalized – it should have been given as a free-kick, but a clumsy challenge nonetheless. 7
Jacques Maghoma – the former Sheffield Wednesday wide man might have lost a yard of pace over the last 12 months, but Garry Monk has adapted to that development well. Rather than deploy right-footed Maghoma as a classic winger on the right, he has played him on the left, enabling him to cut inside in a way that requires him to be a willing runner – which he still is – rather than offer raw speed. Maghoma did that well in the first half at the Hawthorns, but was quieter after the break. 5

Lukas Jutkiewicz – the target man did not attack corners, crosses in set pieces in the obvious sense – as in, by going for the near-post. Instead, he at times showed the intelligence to peel off at the back-post, which was where Albion’s rear-guard had more difficulties picking him up. Headed home Mahoney’s corner on the hour mark and came close with one or two other attempts, whilst also showing a willingness to use his aerial prowess to set up chances for teammates. 7
Che Adams – the Sheffield United academy graduate did one or two good things in the first half, when he ran the channels reasonably well and showed a certain selflessness to pick out teammates. However, Adams was very quiet in the second half and his failure to score in the Black Country means he is now without a goal in six league games – hardly ideal for a team entering a relegation battle reliant on strikers for goals. 5

Craig Gardner (on 78) – the fact Garry Monk so often appears to look at Gardner as a game-changing option says much about the lack of squad depth in the squad – the midfielder’s first action of note was to produce a very strong tackle on Robson-Kanu. He has the passion, but to be an effective substitute, it is important to have either pace or quality on top of that. 4
Jota (on 82) – a difficult environment for Jota. He’s the type of player who likes to get a feel for the ball on the edge of the final third, get a sense of where his teammates are and carefully construct his forward movements. That though, he could not quite do in a helter-skelter environment as Blues looked to pump balls forward in the closing stages. 5
Isaac Vassell (on 82) – possibly the best of the three substitutes. Showed a willingness to put himself about and posed a threat from long throws. It’s easy to say he has not been the same player since returning from injury – he’s not yet started alongside Jutkiewicz. Patience required. 6